Cinema's "enfant terrible" Lars Von Trier is creating controversy again with his next film "Nymphomaniac" daring to contain scenes of real sex. Lars, nothing you do shocks us anymore, don't you get it?
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of talking to legendary Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård and towards the end of our chat I asked him about his latest film with Lars Von Trier, the provocatively titled “Nymphomaniac”. Without giving too much away, Skarsgård described it as a “porno” with “a lot of fucking in it”. Right then.
Now, anyone familiar with Von Trier’s varied body of work will know he has form here already. For “The Idiots” he hired real porn actors to participate in an orgy sequence, while the opening shot of “Antichrist” is an extreme close up of a big, veiny cock plunging into a soaking wet vagina – sorry about the visuals, but it’s burnt onto my retina and so it should be burnt onto yours too – all that juxtaposed with a baby falling out a window. Also in that film there was the now infamous moment where Charlotte Gainsbourg drops a breeze block onto Willem Defoe’s cock before giving him one of the least pleasant looking hand jobs you can imagine, and finally one last extreme close up of Gainsbourg cutting off her clitoris. I paid to see that shit.
I’d even go as far as to say that sex isn’t really the controversial taboo that Von Trier assumes it to be.
Some would say that there’s not really much you can do after that in the controversy stakes. However, bless his heart, Lars gave it a good old go by outing himself as a Nazi at the Cannes Film Festival a couple years back, and must think that a film in which Shia Labeouf engages in a spot of rusty tromboning is the logical next step for him.
But why do we still care? This isn’t the 1950s, this is 2012. We’ve all seen sex, hell, some of us have even DONE it! Ain’t that a thought? In fact, if you’re not watching porn right now, then chances are you either just stopped watching it, or are about to start watching it just as soon as you’ve finished reading (At least read ’til the end, I’ll make the last paragraph really sexy to get you going if you’d prefer?). I’d even go as far as to say that sex isn’t really the controversial taboo that Von Trier assumes it to be.
The problem I have with Von Trier is that he does have it in him to make exceptional, ground-breaking cinema. The three-hour tour-de-force that is “Dogville” is a spectacularly interesting, ambitious and brilliantly realised movie. His debut, “Europa”, a gloriously vibrant and slick watch. “Breaking The Waves” is a masterpiece, towing the line between powerfully moving and deeply unsettling with all the skill of Phillipe Petit tightrope walking between the Twin Towers. “The Five Obstructions” too is a must watch, channeling Von Trier’s penchant for rule making and rule breaking into something playful and exciting. Too often though he decides to throw on bells and whistles before focusing on what is the most important thing in any film: story and character. Without these, your film is nothing. Essentially, at his best he’s a giant of a filmmaker, at his worst he’s the James Cameron of arthouse cinema, his taboo-gimmickry akin to fancy 3D technology masking a piss-weak script.
Too often though he decides to throw on bells and whistle before focusing on what is the most important thing in any film: story and character. Without these, your film is nothing.
I’m sure “Nymphomaniac” will make some waves upon its release, both parts of it, and I too will reserve my complete judgement until I see the final film. However, great films are never built around single scenes or one moment. “Antichrist” may have had some shocking images and may have got some people up in arms, but when you took that away all you had was a painfully dull, badly written, self indulgent damp-wank of a film. With “Nymphomaniac” gaining similar reactions before a frame has even been seen, I can’t help but fear that the end result will be much the same.
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